Being a teacher in training brings a very strange perspective to the classroom. On one hand it is easy to see why professors do the strange things they do, like make 100 Blackboard groups and do weird long pauses. On the other hand, it also makes me question everything, like why the professor argued with that student about an answer, or why did they print off a thousand copies of the syllabus just for us to shove them in our backpacks to forget about, only to turn to the online copy. With covid, most everything has been transferred to the online sector. While this was a difficult switch, I do think it was the push we needed to get the classroom more sustainable.
Most everything pre-covid was on paper, I had to turn in my test on paper, homework, labs, essay needed to be printed. It was just by far such a waste because almost everything could be done electronically. Also being a TA I know how much easier it is for grading when these are done through Blackboard rather than paper copies. There is a much lower chance of error while grading and also it gives a little more leniency towards students. I also have a very strong opinion about teachers requiring students to print out essays when printing is not free, but I won’t get into that now.
In the Fall of 2019 I decided to go as paperless as possible. With the degree of dyslexia, I have written things on paper and reading on paper was becoming overwhelmingly challenging. In the beginning, while I was still taking notes in my notebooks, I first tried to only write what the professors were not already providing. Meaning I wouldn’t copy down slides word for word, and I wouldn’t go into detail about something that was already expressed in the readings. While this worked for a while, I eventually bought the most basic iPad I could find for a reasonable price. This is when things really started to change.
I used notability to copy the PowerPoints from Blackboard before class and just took notes directly on that, imported PDF documents to write directly on them, and I even had my textbooks on there where I could search it, highlight it, and write all over it without worrying about resale value. While an iPad might not be the best piece of tech for everyone there are some very inexpensive and useful pieces of tech that everyone could benefit from.
There was some push pack from a few professors, those who didn’t want any technology in their sight. And while I understand and have experienced how distracting it can be, it is not the student’s fault for their worry. I am a firm believer in using it till you lose it policy, meaning if I have no reason to be suspicious I am not going to be. I have yet to find a teacher, besides “Healthy Brains Healthy Bodies” (which I am not counting as a real class), who won’t let me use my iPad for notes. For me, there isn’t a reason or a class that wouldn’t benefit from a large form of technology integration. Lectures are boring and just reading something is boring. Being able to annotate on everything and anything makes the document seem much more alive, it is also an amazing way to keep track of how your perspective changes throughout the learning process.
While I do sometimes miss paper and pencil, with the return of in-person classes I think exams are going to scratch that itch. I also think that there is a much-needed update to how exams are done. We have moved past the need for solely individual exams that take 4 hours. Having the content knowledge is extremely useful, but unless you can work collaboratively on a problem, then what is the point. Education has not progressed very much over the past couple of years and Covid-19 has highlighted some of the major faults in the system. Progression is needed in order for anything to survive, adapting to the changes of the times is a must, and it is time that education catches up. Technology and more importantly the integration of technology is the future of our society, and the only way that the education system is going to turn into anything actually useful is if they start to accept the newfound tech.
While technology is not free from the issue of sustainability, the information that technology holds is. One of the largest examples of this is the issue of textbooks, not only being super expensive for college students, but they become quickly outdated in K-12 education. Having an online textbook that can be instantly updated or revised without having to waste reams of paper is a huge move in the right sustainable direction. Paper is by far one of the largest wastes in the education system and the solution to this problem is the technology we already have access to.
Written by UVM Guest Writer: Sam Joyner
*Edited by Annie Stibora.